Sheriff seeks funding for career development

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron is asking the county to implement a career development program to boost personnel recruitment and retention. This may be difficult, however, as the county faces a tough budget year.

McEathron asked for the funding during a Tuesday budget work session in which all departments and constitutional officers met with the Board of Supervisors.

The supervisors asked departments to request no increases as the board attempts to avoid raising real estate taxes. McEathron explained that now is the time to institute the career development program due to the large number of young officers in his department.

The career development program would cost about $145,000, and would require a slight increase from last year’s budget. Without the program, the office’s proposed budget would be slightly less than last year’s.

The career development program would allow deputies to advance in rank until reaching master deputy. McEathron noted the department’s starting salaries were comparable to most. But it cannot compete with neighboring jurisdictions, including the Front Royal Police Department, on career development. He said the office has lost over 12 officers in the last couple of years.

“A few left because maybe they didn’t like my expectations and my accountability, and that’s OK. It’s that core seven or eight that I lost that had a lot of career experience,” McEathron said.

McEathron said he knows the program would allow the office to retain and recruit, “and I know there’s thoughts of possibly having a study done…but I think it’s a waste of money.”

Supervisor Chairman Tony Carter said the board appreciates McEathron’s efforts to reduce the budget in other areas, and that the program seems worthwhile.

“But we have to look at the total budget at this point. But if there’s anything there, I think this is something that makes sense,” Carter said. “This is something we’re going to consider, but we have a lot of things to consider.”

Most of the other 18 agencies the supervisors met with Tuesday requested level funding. County Administrator Doug Stanley noted most of the requested increases were related to positions departments added in April 2017. A few positions, such as the county administrator and the county attorney, already received raises in June and will be reflected in the new budget.

“We’ve told them, any salary increase, there’s nothing in the budget. We’ll consider everything at the end of the day to see what kind of money we have, if any,” Stanley said.

The proposed budgets the supervisors reviewed Tuesday did not include a 12.1-percent increase in health insurance. Stanley said it is a tough budget year, and the county will not know the full picture until seeing its revenue in March.

The supervisors will hold their next budget work session at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday with the School Board.